An IBM-convened panel at SIOP 2017 explored the benefits and challenges of remote working. With perspectives from academia as well as public and private sectors, the consistent message was that teleworking works, and that associated challenges can be managed with careful planning and communication.

Academic research from the University of Guelph in Canada, highlighted the importance of using communication channels that attempted to offer some similar benefits of co-location, for example using video conferencing over email or instant messaging.

One challenge of running a virtual team was identified as having to accommodate different time zones, working hours and job characteristics. However, the panellists concluded that, in practice, the relationship between the manager and the employee, rather than strict policies, ends up determining the best way of managing telework. And it was stressed that the team focus should really be on how best to get the job done.

From panellists’ own experiences, there were three key tips for making virtual teams successful:

  • Communication
  • Clear objectives
  • Trust

Two panellists also shared results from their own organizations’ employee engagement survey data that showed how those who were able to work remotely to any extent were more engaged, have stronger trust in leadership and much stronger intention to stay.

These findings mirror what a previous IBM Smarter Workforce Institute study found. Challenging the modern myths of remote working from 2014 shares research conducted in 2012 among workers from a cross-section of industries, many different organizations and all major job families. The remote workers in this research were highly engaged, more likely to consider their workplaces as innovative, happier about their job prospects and less stressed than their more traditional, office-bound colleagues.

Understanding the preferences of workers in your organization can be achieved through employee listening programs. More on IBM’s employee listening offerings can be found here.